Municipal WiFi, College Networks Expand


Despite the best efforts of some of the biggest providers of broadband internet access, municipal networks and white space trials continue to expand. The city of Santa Clara, California noted that its free municipal wi-fi network is beating user projections. White Space Broadband may also be more common in the US.

When SVP MeterConnect’s free outdoor citywide Wi-Fi was introduced in March, Silicon Valley Power (SVP) was expecting around 5,000 daily users by the end of the year. Usage has already increased to over 6,000 users a day on weekdays. City officials there say providing the utility has also made access available to local populations that otherwise wouldn’t have it.

Santa Clara is the first city in the country to provide such free citywide Internet access via its advanced metering initiative. SVP piggybacked a separate free public Wi-Fi channel on the SVP MeterConnect wireless network that will eventually also carry highly encrypted utility data to the city when advanced meters are installed in 2014. Wifi repeaters that look similar to routers people have in their homes sit atop street lights and other utility fixtures creating the network.

The system features speeds up to 2 Mbps, and is sufficient for normal connectivity that does not entail large amounts of data transfer, such as video and gaming. But, the city was able to offer the utility as part of its transition to smart grid. “The system is getting over a thousand more users per day than we expected during peak periods,” said John Roukema, director of SVP. “Even on weekends, we’re seeing around 5,000 logins a day.”

Another group, AIR.U which seeks to expand university broadband networks to their surrounding communities is also working on ways to expand rural broadband. CivSource has previously reported on the growing rural broadband demand, and the potential of TV White Space Broadband as means of bringing access to communities on the outskirts. Now, Declaration Networks Group, Co-Founder of the AIR.U initiative and a provider of wireless access networks, has launched the Quick Start Network Program to accelerate deployment of next generation broadband networks in rural areas. The program will be offered exclusively to the AIR.U Higher Education institutions.

The program will work with AIR.U institutions to determine how they can extend TV White Space Broadband. The program includes a collaborative campus and community assessment to identify network expansion approaches to establish a sustainable path that will significantly increase the coverage and capacity of high-speed wireless connectivity.

AIR.U institutions that take advantage of the Quick Start Network program will receive an AIR.U certified White Space network that includes a base configuration supporting multiple Wi-Fi hotspots that provide high value applications including Public Wi-Fi, residential broadband and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services.